Jake Ward has been on a surreal journey over the last several years. He has gone from writing songs in his college dorm with no intention of them being heard to achieving four consecutive number one singles in Texas.
Ward’s newest single, “Put You Down Tomorrow,” is on its way up the charts, serving as the introduction to his sophomore album “Back to Solid Ground.”
Ward is giving fans the opportunity to experience his wild ride with him, as he says that “Back to Solid Ground” will provide details on his journey over the last few years.
Before the album’s release in June, heard from Ward about his journey to “Back to Solid Ground,” including getting involved in music at an early age, his chart success, opening for major artists such as Chris Young and Cody Johnson, and more!
Pro Country: Who were your biggest musical influences growing up?
Jake Ward: I grew up in Corpus Christi, Texas. My parents have been all over the world; they met in Indonesia, so I don’t have a typical “country” background. I grew up listening to a lot of Beach Boys, George Strait, and A LOT of Elvis. I just had this hodgepodge of music growing up. I like everything, and I take pride in that with my music. I try not to get pigeonholed into “just country.” I try to bring elements of all the stuff I grew up listening to.
PC: You got involved in music at an early age singing in church and performing in musicals around Corpus Christi. What was it about music that interested you so early on? What has kept you hooked?
JW: My mom’s parents were missionaries in Indonesia, and they were also music teachers there. My grandparents on my dad’s side were also big into singing in church, so music was a part of my life almost from day one. When I was about six or seven, I started doing some musical theater and singing in the church. The first time I actually performed on stage for people was when I was 7 at a jazz fest in Corpus Christi. It was a really cool thing. I’d never been on stage in front of people before, and it was one of those things where you realize this is what you were made to do. I have never felt that way before, and I’ve just never lost it. Being onstage and playing for people who are there to see you is a really wonderful thing.
PC: Were you feeling any type of pressure, internally or externally, as you were preparing to release music for the first time with the “Hit the Road” single or collectively for the first time with the “Love Don’t Live Here” album?
JW: I was in bands in high school. We had songs, but we never recorded anything. My best friend was our drummer, and he joined the Navy. He left unexpectedly, so we didn’t really know what to do, but my guitar player and I, who is still my guitar player and one of my best friends in the world, decided we would go in the studio and record the song we wrote and see what happens. That song was “Hit the Road.” I showed it to my friend who is DJ in Corpus Christi, and she somehow got the station to play it, and all of a sudden, we had this song out. I guess I kind of skipped the pressure stage because I had no plans on even putting that song out or having anybody hear it. It just kind of started happening, so I just ran with it and jumped straight into the fire (laughs). I had no idea what I was doing, and I still don’t, but I learned a lot from just diving right in.
PC: “Take My Hand” has become one of your signature songs that you’ve released so far. What do you think it is about that song that has connected with people the way it has?
JW: I wrote that song when I was in college. I think the fiddle on it really gets people into it. That’s one of the first songs I wrote. It’s kind of innocent, because I didn’t really know what I was doing. I didn’t really have any expectations of it being on the radio or being a single. I think it’s just so real and who I was at that time of my life. I just remember when I wrote it, I had no thought that it would ever be on the radio. It’s done a lot for me, and I love playing it. It’s still my favorite song to play live.
PC: What kind of emotions hit you when you reached number one for the first time with “Take My Hand”?
JW: A lot of relief and excitement. It was a really cool thing, because it’s nothing I had ever expected, and honestly honestly, I didn’t even want it because the thought had never crossed my mind, so I wasn’t even hoping for it (laughs). When I saw it go to number one, it was mind blowing. That was 2016, and just a couple years prior, I had written the song in my college dorm, and I had never thought at that time in my life that I would be putting out songs to radio, much less having number one. It’s something that’s hard to experience again, because it was just such an amazing feeling.
PC: You’ve earned four consecutive number one singles in Texas. What kind of validation does it bring you when you achieve that level of success?
JW: It’s amazing. Again, that’s something I never thought would happen. When you grow up listening to music and the radio, and then all of a sudden you have one song that goes number one, and then multiple songs that go to number one, it’s a blessing. It’s something that I don’t take for granted, and something I strive to keep doing. Once you do it once or twice, you kind of get that pressure to have it happen again. I want to keep putting out music that people enjoy, and I just appreciate that people listen to it and that radio stations play it!
PC: As you were preparing to release “Put You Down Tomorrow,” were you feeling that pressure to achieve that same success that your previous four singles had achieved?
JW: For sure. I hadn’t put out a single in about seven months. When I was finally ready to put it out, I realized it was a little different than the stuff I had put out in the past, and it was very different from my last single, “Not Too Far to Reach.” I think it’s a special song, and it’s turned out good so far! (laughs)
PC:“Put You Down Tomorrow” has gotten off to a great start since its release. Can you talk about the inspiration behind that song?
JW: I wrote that song with my drummer that I mentioned earlier that joined the Navy and my guitar player about a year or two ago. We had a friend at the time who had an issue with this girl. She would call him, and then he wouldn’t hear from her again for a couple weeks. I told him that he was like an addict and couldn’t quit her. I said that to the guys when we were writing, and we went from there. It’s a fun, rocking song. It’s something that I think a lot of people can relate to.
PC: Why did you decide to release it as the lead single from your upcoming “Back on Solid Ground” album?
JW: In my head, one thing that I have done well with in the past is gauging what song we’re going to put out based on how people react to it when we play at life. I try not to have any other emotions to it, because there’s some that I love that people don’t love. I try to strictly base it off of people’s reactions. People just loved that one. It’s a rocker, it’s fun, it has a cool riff, and it has always worked well for us.
PC: What can fans expect to hear on the “Back to Solid Ground” album?
JW: Just me. There’s some songs that are 2 and 3 years old on there, and also songs that are just a couple months old. It’s a timeline of me: where I’ve been in the last couple of years and who I am as a person. I’m really excited for people to hear it. Nothing sounds the same, which I think is an exciting thing.
PC: Throughout your catalog, you’ve showcases both a traditional country sound, as well as a southern rock sound. Is it at all important for you to showcase that artistic versatility at his point in your career?
JW: I take pride in the fact that I don’t really sound like one thing. At this point with the red dirt country scene, there’s so many different subgenres of it. I strive to be something for everybody, but still maintain my own sound and who I am as an artist. It’s something that I work hard to do.
PC: You’ve played with major artists such as Chris Young, Gary Allan, and Cody Johnson, among many others. What can you take away from those opportunities that helps you in your own career?
JW: Everybody that we’ve opened for always has something to teach us. When you see guys like Cody Johnson, he has one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen. It’s always an amazing opportunity for me to play with those guys. There’s a reason they are who they are, and that’s something I try to emulate when we play shows. I always try to have the same level of authenticity and showmanship as those guys.
PC: What are your plans for the rest of 2019?
JW: We’re just going to be playing our butts off. Once the album comes out, it’s going to get even busier, so we’re excited about that. I can’t wait to see what happens!
*All images courtesy of Jake Ward and Jake Ward Facebook Page*